Thursday 29 December 2022

Translated Arabic Short Version of a letter from Ottoman officials to Emperor Idris Alooma of Kanem-Bornu

Part of a series of letters sent from the Ottoman Empire to Mai Idris Alooma of Kanem-Bornu in around 1577.

This is the "Short Arabic Version".

Source: "Mai Idris of Bornu and the Ottoman Turks, 1576-78" by B. G. Martin in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4 (October 1972), pp. 470-490. Published by Cambridge University Press.


Translated Arabic Short Version of a letter from Ottoman officials to Emperor Idris Alooma in the paper "Mai Idris of Bornu and the Ottoman Turks, 1576-78":

“This is our noble, sublime, and sultan-like letter, our exalted, high, and khaqan-like message-may it continue to be effective and command obedience in [all] regions and districts, with the helpful assistance of the Unseen Benefactor! We have despatched it to the honourable person of amir's rank, the most great, the most noble, the most imposing, the most magnificent, glorious and perfect, the most eminent, the Imam-like and heroic, the patron of the ghazis and the participants in the Holy War, the upholder of kings and sultans, the person designed to receive a superabundance of divine favour, MALIK IDRIS, at present the wali of the wilaya of Bornu-May the Almighty prolong his happiness and make his endeavour successful by right guidance! Let him accept [our] best greetings and high praise!

[You] should be aware that your noble letter has arrived at our sublime threshold, where mighty sultans take refuge, and to which distinguished khaqans vaunt their connection, by the hand of your messenger, the exemplary and prominent al-Hajji... '-may his rank be raised! And he has explained to our lofty and illustrious presence what it contains of extreme friendliness, and an intensification of the sincere good will [existing between us]. He has mentioned your request that the bases of sincere friendship be reinforced, and the foundation of true amity strengthened, and that whosoever wishes among the goers  and comers of the population of your domains should pass into our wilaya, including merchants and visitors, so that [such traffic] may become a cause of the perfection of [our reciprocal] esteem, and an inducement to the growth of union and harmony.

[As to] what there is in addition to the matters [you have] mentioned, and the requests which remain, it has become clear and evident, and fully comprehended by our noble intellect, which has grasped the details of information [which you have supplied], both in quantity and in quality. Hence it should be known and understood by you, that our exalted and khaqan-line thresholds and our high and sultan-like portals are opened wide to the faces of friends and enemies, nor do we turn away loved ones and sincere friends who have taken refuge there. Indeed, our noble decrees and illustrious commands have reached our excellent governors, who guard the frontier fortresses and halting places, the protectors of all watering places and stages of the journey, not to hinder the coming of merchants and visitors, nor to prevent the entry into our well-guarded realms, of believers and well-intentioned persons.

And your aforementioned messenger has informed us of your petition, addressed to our noble person, that the fortress known as Quran should be ceded to you. You are well aware that it is not one of the precepts of our mighty forefathers, nor the custom of our generous ancestors, to cede any part of the citadels which have been in their hands, nor a foot's breadth of the lands and territories which have come under their rule, and which they have administered. Had it not been for this point, the thing claimed would have been handed over legally, for we have discovered that our mighty [ancestors] followed this same scheme.

On receiving our noble letter, you must continue to restrain the regions under your rule, to protect the frontiers, and to guard the existing fortresses within the compass of your wilaya, and make the greatest efforts, as is expected of you, [for your] aim is the regulation of the affairs of the poor and unfortunate, and the termination of the business of all travellers, following the utterance of the Almighty: 'Truly, the believers are brothers, so set matters aright among your brethren' [Qur'an, xLIX, io], and the hadith of the Chief of the Prophets-on whom the purest of blessings!-'All believers are brothers.' So be in accord with the peoples of these lands, the villages, and those who are in your districts from among the generality of the subjects and the entirety of mankind, and all the amirs, inasmuch as war and combat are inevitable. And if you require aid and assistance, supplies and support, it is incumbent on you to inform the amirs of  those regions and the walis of those districts and countries, so that they may set aside [supplies] for you, and make efforts on your behalf, and employ the greatest zeal and exertion [for you], and defend you and the rest of the land through good understanding and the most faultless harmony [against] the harmful tricks of the enemies of religion, and the cunning of the foes of the revealed.”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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